Work-life balance is coming more and more into focus at modern companies and even governments are rethinking the idea of the 40-hour working week. Conservative critics may think that this weakens a nation’s or company’s position in an increasingly competitive environment but having actively sought out a 32-hour week I’ve realized that having more free time has made me more productive in the office.

It wasn’t easy to convince friends, family and hiring managers of the value of cutting my working week by 20%. My reasons for this rather unconventional move were that I indeed like my job a lot, but there are things I truly adore: adventures in the mountains and being a successful ultra-trail runner. In spite of people’s fears that I would miss out on career opportunities and financial remuneration, I still went my own way and found out that the decision that I made for personal reasons is also influencing my professional career in a positive way. Here’s why:

1. Part-timers are physically and psychologically healthier

You may already have heard about studies that found out that working less and having more time off has positive effects on your health, which in turn reduces the amount of sick days. Mentally, I am better able to manage stress after a long weekend in the mountains or a long run the afternoon before.

2. Part-timers are most likely more motivated, but not overly obsessed

I’m highly motivated for several reasons. As I have a shorter working week or day, I come in on a Monday morning relaxed and happy after a nice weekend, motivated to kick-ass in the upcoming 32 working hours. Before I get too tired, annoyed or stressed, I find myself already at the top of a mountain again, leaving myself no time to get too obsessed with any one thing.

man on a mountain in the snow marcel hoeche working less boosts career
Making mountain hikes and ultra-trail running weekly activities pushes my personal and professional performance to new levels.
Man doing yoga, trail running and bouldering working part-time boosts career
The extra time I have for sports and friends ensures I have a smile on my face every Monday morning.
Muddy legs during mountainbiking. working part-time boosts career
The only wheels I want to be on are two ones in the fresh air and working part-time ensures that’s the case.
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3. Part-timers have time to improve themselves every damn day

When I worked 40 hours a week, I came home at the end of the day without any motivation left to rethink what I was actually doing in the office. I was so focused on the daily business and all the (bad) habits I had fallen into, that I found no chance to think about these weaknesses and improve on them.

Whole project teams and workshops are initiated to bring several experts together to analyze and restructure complex processes. What if the 22-year-old beginner would find such a business approach all by himself? On a Friday afternoon, watching the sunset somewhere in the Alps. This is unlikely to happen among the project team putting in long hours in the office.

The best is that I don’t even need to think about work. During a full-day mountain tour, you will necessarily think about yourself, what you have done, what you can do better, where you want to go and how you will get there. Isn’t this the definition of creating a fulfilling career?

Think about it. If you have time.

View from a climbing ladder working part-time boosts career
I’m proud to have created my own ladder to climb and create the work-life balance I need to be at my best.

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by nits 15.02.2017
great article! please keep sharing more about your adventure and success. The change to 4 day a week work seems daunting to me but seeing your experiences and the benefits makes me feel like giving it a try!
by Marcel Höche nits 27.02.2017
thx! :)
by Gemina Stroud 16.02.2017
Very motivating Marcel! I crave more "life" in my life!
by Nadine 16.02.2017
Thank you for the great article! Completely resonates with me - especially the part on the 40h work week: "I came home at the end of the day without any motivation left to rethink what I was actually doing in the office. I was so focused on the daily business ...that I found no chance to think about these weaknesses and improve on them."
This is often the case for me and I'd love to reduce working hours just a bit to leave more room for exactly that. I hope our culture can move towards this model in the future.
by Jens 17.02.2017
Hey Marcel,

I loved reading your post and I feel like I want to agree; however, I also liked Marcus Leach's post from a week ago that gives very valid reasons why "Champions do more" and are always willing to go the extra mile (and I don't think he meant hiking on Friday mornings ;-).
@MarcusLeachFood what are your thoughts on this?

by Marcus Leach 23.02.2017
Work/Life balance is an interesting concept, in as much as there is no real need for balance when you're doing what you love. The reality is a lot of people are not really doing what they love and are passionate about in life, so they trade up 40 hours of their week in return for what someone else thinks they are worth, giving away the best years of their lives to build other people's futures.

I agree to an extent, that we can all be more efficient in our work, but ultimately champions do more - There is a difference between being in the office, or at your desk for 40 hours, and then actually working hard for 40 hours to get ahead of the game. Nobody ever became truly successful without putting the hard yards in.

Working at your optimum for 40 hours is going to be more beneficial than working at your optimum for 32 hours, it comes down to being motivated and focused on what you do, which comes back to my first point about doing what you truly love in life, not settling for a job or career that is anything but perfect.

by Marcel Höche Marcus Leach 27.02.2017
Hi Marcus,

Thanks for your great comment and reason to re-evaluate.

See, I am not only running through the mountains for fun, but I am also doing it highly competitively and actually even professionally. One of my bigger achievements were the German junior title in ultra marathon running - so I totally agree to "Champions do more" !
But what do they do more?
Focus when they actually are in the office? Get helpful career experience outside of the office? Stay healthier by going outdoors? Creating impressive achievements out of the office that even the SMT looks up to?

I'm truly loving my job, so don't get me wrong here and the last thing I want to do is miss a career opportunity, but being in this "experiment" of working 32hrs, I really can't say that this is the case.
Maybe it is something you want to give a shot? Who says working 40 hrs is best anyways?

What do you think?
by Marcus Marcel Höche 01.03.2017
To be honest I've not counted the hours that I 'work' for some years now. I create my income by following my passions for adventure, writing and public speaking, and truly believe that when you're doing what you're passionate about there are no hours to be counted.

Maybe it's different working in a traditional job, when there are set days and work hours and a career ladder to try and climb. But one thing I do know, is that every successful person I have met, from all fields, has always been prepared to go the extra mile, to do whatever it takes to be the best.

I agree with you that we can be more efficient in certain areas of our life, but ask tiger woods would he ever have become one of the world's greatest golfers by hitting fewer practice shots, or of Richard Branson would have built such a global empire by going home early from the office.
by Philip Carpenter 23.02.2017
I definitely agree with Marcus. I am a dedicated triathlete and two time sub 3 hour marathon runner and I can still do my sport with a clear head even if I had a 50 hour week. I enjoy what I do and that motivates me even more in my personal life.
A good article indeed but the balance for me is trying to pull away from one of my many passions.
by Marcel Höche Philip Carpenter 27.02.2017
Hi Philip,

Congrats to your sub3 Marathon time.

But what about 2:30 or 2:35? :)

I guess it is up to everyone to decide what he or she likes most and how to achieve whatever he or she wants to achieve.
What I am definitely not saying is that I'm neglecting my career or not loving my job, but that I truly boost my career by working less. It's true - try it out ;)